Neil's News

Lava Lamp Centrifuge

3 March 2010

Will lava lamps work in a high-gravity environment such as Jupiter? This topic spawned considerable lunch-time discussion and no clear consensus emerged. Most people initially assumed that the wax would sink to the bottom and wouldn't cycle, but as the physics was examined in greater depth this assumption became difficult to defend. Since Google is well-known for the lava lamps in its lobbies, a definitive answer is needed if we ever hope to open regional offices in the outer solar system.

To find out how lava lamps behave in super-terrestrial gravity, I built a large centrifuge in my living room. This was intended to be a fun activity for a long weekend in January. However the project's size and power requirements were well outside my previous experience. Thus it was a rich learning experience as I encountered one metal-shredding and wire-melting failure after another. In the end, perseverance paid off and I obtained the answer to the original question. Check out the video below or read about the Lava Lamp Centrifuge in greater depth.

So, now that I have this 3G centrifuge, does anyone have ideas for other things I could do with it? You've seen "Will it Blend?", now it's time for "Will it Spin?" A dipping bird is first on my list. My pet rat is not on the list.

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